I attended church for the first time in over a year. I've been avoiding walking into the sanctuary for a myriad of reasons which had more to do with time than my personal belief system. However, having raised my daughter with faith and a whole lot of Wednesday night potluck church gatherings, I'm not surprised that she jumped into the big church youth group and began singing in their choir this year.
There is no way I will let my child sing in choir without her mother (and her father when he isn't traveling) sitting in the pews to encourage her. So I dragged myself from my personal church: the Church of the Holy Comforter and dressed up for the traditional service.
Confession: I'm a contemporary worship kind of gal so putting on nice pants and a dressing up for church is rather foreign to me. I'm glad she will sing in both types of services so I can wear jeans every once in a while. What can I say? I'm not into the formality of it all. But ... I digress.
Despite a lack of coffee, very tired eyes, and not really knowing anyone at this gargantuan church (I think they have over 3000 members) I'm glad I went to the early morning service. First of all, the singing was amazing. The choir did a fabulous job, and I was so happy to be there to encourage them. These teenagers rehearse every Sunday and are hardworking, dedicated kids. It's always nice to see motivated and caring teens. They give me hope for the future.
Second, I enjoyed the little rituals. The hymns I knew, the fellowship, the benediction, and the sermon. The benefit of going to church, regardless of one's belief system, is the connectivity and the familiarity of the shared knowledge of the faith. It is comforting. And because it was early, and traditional, most of the congregation was older. The people who attended the service were so nice to the teenagers afterward in sharing their encouraging and kind words.
The connectivity, the familiarity, and the shared knowledge within a church group (or a mosque group or a synagogue group...) build bonds. They cross bridges. They teach us to go the extra the mile. They remind us that we are less than we think we are as individuals. They tell us that we can be far greater than who we are by practicing humility and honoring others before ourselves.
And that was what the pastor preached about today. Honoring each other. He couched his sermon in the framework of the family. Honoring our parents AND honoring our children. I believe the concept of honor needs to extend that way in all our interactions. Just as we honor the great mentors in our lives, we must also give honor to those who are at the beginning or in the middle of their journey toward reaching their goals and their dreams.
To honor is to "give weight" to a person.
I think sometimes people forget that it is in honoring all the people in our lives that we truly learn humility. Me being me, I also began mulling over how we react if we are treated in a dishonorable fashion. There are so many gray areas in our lives. Areas where the rules are unclear, they are muddy at best, and we trip over them. We stumble in our response.
Confession: I am a well-known stumbler. I try not to stumble as much as I used to, but I figure when I stop stumbling, I'll be in a better place. No one is perfect. Least of all me.
What about when someone dishonors another? Or oneself? What do we do with the feelings that accompany being dishonored? Do we hold them in a grudge bag? Do we return the negative treatment? Do we ignore it? I've been taught that gentle rebuke is allowed which is usually followed by an apology and then the act of forgiveness.
What if the person dishonoring another person has power over that person? Then what is one's recourse?
I believe that forgiveness is still called for in that situation. This doesn't mean I recommend letting someone continue to treat another person with dishonor, but it does mean it is easier to move on and away from feeling hurt and angry if we do internally forgive that person. At the end of the day, the act of forgiveness and redemption is for us. It sets us free to move on.
Confession: Forgiving and forgetting are not the same to me. I am not honoring my spirit if I allow people to abuse me in any way, shape, or form. No one should let another person abuse them and break their spirits.
How do we forgive a person who treats us with dishonor? The minister today said something that rang a big bell in my head and clarified my heart.
He said, "People are doing the best that they can given the backgrounds and baggage they have." Personally, in my heart, all I can do is try to understand why someone behaves a certain way. I don't have to like it. I don't have to acknowledge it or condone the behavior, but I can honor a higher power than myself and give that person permission to do the best he or she can. And then I can move on emotionally and mentally.
Maybe in honoring the principle and the belief that all will be well despite our human failings, I will discover the deeper meaning of humility. My heart's desire is to walk in the world with a modest view of myself regardless of how much I achieve or accomplish because I want the people in my life to feel encouraged to grow in their own life journeys.
And I seek out others who share that core belief regardless of their faith, their culture, their educational background, or their history.
So I am adding another goal to my list:
Practice humility and treat others with dignity, honor, and respect.